IRVING, Texas - Dave Abrams became the Denver Broncos' shadow in January.
His official title is vice president of security. After Darrent Williams was shot and killed Jan. 1 following a nightclub party, the Broncos created the position.
Abrams spent 37 years in the Denver Police Department. He worked in SWAT, homicide, internal affairs, patrol and was gang captain. He retired as a deputy chief. The Broncos hired him to help the players in many ways, but foremost he teaches them how to protect themselves.
"He's done all the things that give us and this organization the ability to be proactive in that area," Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said.
Abrams said he does homework on the players, studying their biographies in the media guide and getting to know them off the field. He also pays attention to their habits, such as hangouts and associates. In an early meeting with the players he said he would be keeping close watch over them.
"I tell them, don't be surprised where you see me," said Abrams, who worked off duty as security for Broncos owners for more than 20 years. "What I'm trying to tell them ahead of time is one night you're going to be at the Purple Martini or Club Vinyl or something like that and you happen to pay attention to someone at the door and you'll say `That guy looks like Abrams.' Then you'll realize it is Abrams."
Safety Nick Ferguson said he teases Abrams, telling him he expects Abrams to pop up when he's driving or taking out the garbage. Kidding aside, Ferguson said he appreciates that the Broncos have a full-time security official. do we know how many others do?
"He's doing an excellent job," Ferguson said. "I hope more teams do that. I think Mr. Bowlen has taken the Darrent issue so seriously and that's why he brought Dave in."
Even though he drops by some nightclubs to introduce himself to bouncers and managers, Abrams doesn't assume he can protect every player. He hopes he is teaching the players to make good decisions.
The NFL, which has strongly encouraged teams to hire a full-time security official, mandated that every team have an hourlong presentation on gangs, and another on guns. Abrams made the presentation on gangs last week, and said he'll speak to the players about guns next week.
Based on his experience with gangs, Abrams knows how to identify them. For example, if a player wears a baseball hat tilted a certain way, it could be mistaken as a gang identifier and lead to a confrontation. Ferguson grew up in Miami, but said gangs weren't prevalent there and much of what Abrams said was new to him.
"It's trying to make everybody aware of these subtle signs that really aren't so subtle if you know what they mean," Abrams said.
According to a report on HBO, two men started flashing gang signs at Williams and his friends at about midnight the night he was killed, and Williams tried to diffuse the situation. He was shot about two hours later after he left the club. Abrams said initial signs of trouble should be a red flag, and may indicate it is time to leave.
Abrams said he would like to think Williams' death could have been avoided through some of his lessons. Someone else might benefit in the future.
"You're trying to make them think twice about a lot of things, so hopefully we can prevent that and make sure it doesn't happen again," Abrams said.
Abrams told players which places in Denver have histories of trouble. Ferguson said he was surprised at how many places Abrams deemed dangerous, but the advice was important.
"If it's a place that's consistently known to have problem, even if it's a favorite hangout, now it's time to find a different place to hang out," Ferguson said.
And if a situation goes bad, Abrams tells them to leave at the first sign of trouble. He said younger players have a tough time recognizing that trouble is brewing, and it might be too late when they do.